The Legislators’ Dilemma: (In)Formal Institutions, External Patronage and the Local-Elite-Centeredness of Parliamentary Representation in Africa’s Emerging Democracies
Acheampong, Martin (2023): „The Legislators’ Dilemma: (In)Formal Institutions, External Patronage and the Local-Elite-Centeredness of Parliamentary Representation in Africa’s Emerging Democracies“. Bamberg: Otto-Friedrich-Universität.
Year of publication:
Dissertation, Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg, 2023
Representative democracy is founded on a straightforward principle: voters periodically elect representatives to the Legislative Assembly to represent their interests. However, in practice, representation is much more complex. Members of Parliament (MPs) do not exclusively represent parochial constituency interests. They also face expectations to represent state-wide as well as partisan interests. As a result, local, national and party forces concurrently compete for the MPs’ time. This is the legislators’ dilemma: while focusing primarily on constituency issues benefits voters directly and hones the MP’s vertical accountability, it depletes the resources needed for internal parliamentary policymaking and oversight, and thus weakens parliament’s abilities for horizontal accountability. Conversely, a disproportionate focus on parliament may adversely deprive constituents of the MPs’ attention. Party representation, on the other hand, may create MP-constituency gaps, especially if partisan interests and constituents’ preferences diverge. How do MPs respond to this dilemma, given that an emphasis on either of the representational foci has unique democratic consequences? I argue that, although a healthy balance between intra and extra-parliamentary activities is at the heart of legislative representation in modern democracies, legislators often make trade-offs between them. I investigate where African MPs place their representational emphasis, how they vary and the institutional as well as contextual forces that systematically underlie their priorities. Theoretically, I push back against conventional hypotheses on representational behaviour based solely on formal electoral institutions, colonial legacies and electoral clientelism. Instead, I propose a framework based on the modern political roles of precolonial traditional structures of authority, religion and relational clientelism. This model suggests that the incentive for placing greater or lesser emphasis on local, national or party representation is a function of the relative strength of informal political institutions present in the MPs’ electoral context. I empirically analyse this by observing legislators in Ghana and South Africa using a unique combination of quantitative and qualitative data comprising semi-structured interviews, parliamentary records, public opinion surveys and press data. The analysis demonstrates the popularity of ‘elite-centric’ constituency representation in Ghana and South Africa. There are, however, within case representational variations manifesting along rural-urban and electoral contextual dimensions. The salience of informal institutions in rural electoral districts, as well as electoral vulnerability, induce constituency-oriented behaviour. Conversely, state-wide and party emphasis are influenced jointly by constituency complexity and electoral security.
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Representation, Informal Institutions, Clientelism, Local Elites, Constituency
Clientelism, Local Elites, Constituency
January 30, 2023